Chapter 816: Artificial Dungeon

After gathering with Finn, Gareth, Haruhime, and Shakti, Vahn laid out his plans to delve deeper into the Dungeon while also ensuring their path of ‘retreat’ wouldn’t be cut off. Since Enyo’s forces seemed to rely on chemical and biological attacks, Vahn did a few rolls using the gacha system to try and find a suitable item to defend against that type of warfare. From this, he received a [Purification Stone], which had the appearance of a blue crystal the size of an infant. When planted into the ground, or powered by a formation, it emitted a hemispherical aura that could completely repel the majority of poisons, toxins, and miasma.

They had variable prices, ranging between six-hundred and ten-million Origin Points, but Vahn only purchased a few of the 100,000OP stones to protect Lil Geirr. He also gave an interspatial ring to Gareth and entrusted him with sending someone to station themselves at Rivira on the 18th Floor. Though Vahn had been tempted to send Fafnir there to watch over the settlement, it was far more beneficial to have it lurking around in the shadows of the Artificial Dungeon. Since sealing off the main Dungeon would also cut off Enyo’s means to attach to the surface, the only other route would be through the Artificial Dungeon. Since Fafnir could inform him of the moment such an attack occurred, it was better for it to remain near the Freya Familia for the time being…

Other than the [Purification Stone]s, Vahn spent a bit of time performing maintenance on the various wards that had been set up around Lil Geirr while also taking the opportunity to investigate if anyone had been trying to use the settlement for their advantage. He wasn’t even remotely surprised by the fact that there had been a hidden pathway carved through the plateau that was serving as a throughway for smuggled goods. Those associated were tried in accordance with the laws that had been established, resulting in a group of twenty-three people being blacklisted from Lil Geirr.

This left them kicked out of the encampment with only enough supplies to reach the surface of the Dungeon, even though many of them lacked the strength to do so. If they wanted to make it up safely, they would need to survive in the surrounding woods for a few months before one of the return expeditions was held. Since their supplies wouldn’t last nearly long enough, these people that wanted to exploit a system that was fundamentally designed to help people would have to hunt monsters and bide their time. There was also a system that would allow them to trade magic cores and drop items for additional supplies, but the conversion wasn’t very favorable to them since they had earned the ire of the entire encampment.

At the same time, in preparation for the expedition down to the 50th Floor, Vahn continued his investigation into the bodies, equipment, and intentions of every attending member. By the time he was finished, he had removed more than a hundred people off of the expedition and exchanged them with volunteers residing within Lil Geirr. It was also during this investigation that Vahn was able to confirm that, unless they had a means of hiding that were beyond his perception, the ‘feeling’ he had been having wasn’t related to anyone within the expedition. This meant it was the fact the expedition was taking place at all which was the source of his instincts triggering…

Since they had been inconvenienced over a three day period, Vahn gave the expedition leave for forty-eight hours so that they could experience some of the interesting aspects of Lil Geirr. As long as they showed up for their patrol duties, everyone had been allowed to use their time as they pleased while Vahn and the girls did much the same. He was spending his recreational time trying to learn how to use the other functions within his system efficiently while also spending time making preparations back on the surface for whatever Enyo would throw at them. At the same time, Vahn was a lot more open about his own wants and desires during the evening hours, even though he spent a fair amount of time just spending time with his children…

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Terra, flying over the City at his behest, very quickly found several areas where there were strange creatures laying dormant within the massive and complex sewer system of Orario. She even found that there were several tunnels that seemed to connect into the Dungeon itself, showing that the Artificial Dungeon and Babel weren’t the only ways into and out of the Dungeon. This information had caused Vahn to release a heavy sigh before shifting the focus of the Alliance to the purging and sealing of the tunnels beneath Orario. Terra had already dealt with all the strange plant-like monsters, many similar to the Viscum he had encountered near the 24th Floor, so the rest was just busy work to prevent monsters from rising up and attacking at random spots throughout the City.

Upon this relatively major discovery, Vahn had gone with a large group of gods that were associated with the Alliance and directly met with Ouranos. It was very surprising to see the massive seal that the elder god kept maintained but, other than memorizing its structure, Vahn ignored that and got to the point. Since the Guild was supposed to be regulating the various Familia, managing the flow of magic cores within the market, and keeping order within the City, it was a major fiasco that tunnels had been constructed that connected to the Dungeon. Just the fact that the Artificial Dungeon even existed, without any effort on the Guild’s part to shut it down was a major red flag that Vahn wanted to be addressed.

Ouranos admitted that the Artificial Dungeon, which was known through the Guild’s network as Knossos, had been the ambition of a demigod by the name of Daedelus. Not only was he one of the principal founders of Orario itself, but he had constructed Daedelus Street and Knossos after becoming infatuated with the structure of the Dungeon. Since he made major contributions to the City, and hadn’t actually done anything wrong, the Guild had no reason to prevent his ambitious project from coming to fruition.

It wasn’t until organizations like Evilus stepped in and claimed Knossos for themselves that it had become an issue that required the focus of the Guild. By that point, though they had the means of confronting the organization themselves, the amount of chaos that would have ensued would have greatly weakened the Guild and potentially brought ruin to the entire City. Other than entrusting the task to other people, the Guild had been ‘powerless’ to take any meaningful action. As for why Knossos was allowed to continue existing after the fact, it was due to the sheer number of people residing in its structure and the fact that they simply had no reason to destroy something that had been developed by one of the most prolific craftsmen in history…

Though there were ‘a lot’ of things that Vahn didn’t agree with, he was content with the fact that Ouranos officially recognized the Alliance’s claim to Knossos since they had already purchased the land containing Daedelus Street. Since Vahn had already brought large reforms to the area, drastically reducing the number of people living underground, Knossos would now become the Alliance’s personal back entrance into the Dungeon.

Now, with some additional concessions that Ouranos had agreed to, Vahn had a perfect excuse to begin cleaning out the Artifical Dungeon and purging any criminal organizations residing within. He even humored the idea of turning Knossos into a ‘practice dungeon’ for the School in the future but, for the time being, just used the map that had been offered up by Ouranos to let Hephaestus and Hestia come up with a design to ‘cap’ off the Artifical Dungeon. They obviously couldn’t build a second Babel Tower but, after negotiating with Penia, the ‘ruler’ of Daedelus Street, it would be converted into a massive trading center that would act as the central power base of the Alliance in the future…

Before that was possible, however, Knossos needed to be swept clean so Vahn was currently standing in a large clearing where all of the buildings had been leveled. There was a massive set of stairs leading into the earth that served as the primary entrance to Knossos while all of the smaller entrances were being cleared out and sealed off. Freya stood next to him, causing the members of her Familia to give him cold glances that Vahn simply ignored.

Vahn also had Fenrir at his side and the two of them were about to probe into Knossos so he could begin compiling a detailed map of its structure while simultaneously eliminating any threats contained within. They had already found thousands of traps that were built into the Artificial Dungeon’s structure, so he had decided to just deal with it directly instead of waiting for results. After all, it didn’t matter how many traps he triggered himself and, other than a mild inconvenience, he would be able to circumvent their effects entirely.

With an eager glimmer in her eye, Freya asked in a seductive and ‘sad’ tone, “Are you really going in…?” Vahn nodded his head, turning to Freya and performing an action that would stun almost anyone that witnessed it. Reaching out with his hand, Vahn began to stroke her silvery hair as he smiled comfortingly and said, “Be a good girl and make sure nothing escapes while I’m inside. Your Familia has the strongest war potential of the Alliance and I trust that your children will be perfectly capable of rounding up anyone that tries to flee…”

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Freya had a very lovelorn expression on her face but still moved her head around adorably, seeking out his touch while saying, “I understand…” in a sad tone. Seeing this, Vahn chuckled lightly and said, “Don’t worry, you’ll be the first to know what I’m finished up here. When I return, let’s have a small celebration…” These words cause Freya’s eyes to shift into a hazy purple as an expectant smile spread across her face, seemingly brightening up the entire world around her. Vahn felt her charm break powerlessly against the defenses of his mind as Freya nodded her head and said, “I’ll prepare an interesting surprise for you when you return, Vahn…ufufufufu~.”

Since he already had a good idea of what she intended, Vahn just returned a smile to Freya and said, “I’ll look forward to it…” before turning away and stepping into Knossos’ entrance. He had already discussed the same details that he had gone over with the other girls so Freya had started selecting members from her own Familia to turn into his retainers. Vahn wouldn’t even be surprised if, by the time he returns to the surface, Freya had gathered an elite group of men and women who were waiting to pledge their allegiance towards him. Though the majority would likely be female, Vahn had already discussed it with the girls that he needed male subordinates and retainers as well, being that he couldn’t always confide in women if he wanted to be a stable existence. To this, Loki had surprisingly mentioned turning some of the girls into men, and vice-versa, a thought that had sent shivers up Vahn’s spine since he immediately recalled his ‘experiment’ with Tiona from the past…

Shaking that thought from his mind, Vahn transformed into his Baihu form so he could easily see in the dark while Fenrir skulked behind him on high alert. Within his shadow, Fafnir was also present and ready for any sign of an enemy attack while extending his own unique senses to detect hidden threats. Though Vahn’s domain had already increased to 1,008m, it didn’t mean the would easily be able to process everything that was happening all at once. He had long noticed that, as his domain increased in size, it was much more difficult to focus his perception on any given object contained within.

Though he was ‘aware’ of everything present, it was like being aware of a candle on the very edge of your periphery vision. Unless you looked at it directly, it would be difficult to describe the fine details of the object. Vahn current domain worked very similarly to this principle and, as it could also be interfered with by physical boundaries, it made his senses somewhat unreliable while in closed corridors. This is why he focused on his other senses to act as a supplement to the perception offered by his domain and, as his Baihu form also enhanced his ‘instincts’, it was the best possible form for this task.

As a result, Vahn walked forward confidently and used very minimal movements to dodge a series of spears that had shot out from the walls. The entire corridor had been filled with holes to distract from the actual mechanism but Vahn was able to very clearly see which ones held the true dangers. At the same time, he would sometimes bypass the traps entirely just by manipulating Earth Elemental energy to disable them or having Fenrir simply freeze them completely. His main purpose was to compile a map of the maze-like structure of Knossos and he didn’t actually want to destroy all the traps since they served the dual purpose of keeping people out while also keeping monsters in…

There weren’t many, but Vahn and Fenrir would sense the presence of monsters wandering around Knossos and, after confirming they weren’t Xenos, quickly dispatch them. They would also periodically come across sealed rooms where people would be holed up, sometimes totaling more than a hundred laborers that were forced to produce things like drugs and black market goods. The first time Vahn saw such a sight, he had to take a deep breath to maintain his calm before manipulating the walls to create an opening into the sweatshop.

After dealing with the thugs that were watching over the group comprised almost entirely of Pallums, Vahn had Fafnir escort them back to the surface while sending a telepathic message to Preasia requesting her to come and help deal with any psychological trauma the workers may have experienced. She had become especially capable of dealing with troubled minds and, using her Dreamscape as a medium, had managed to help many people recover from their trauma. Though some people were a little bothered by her rather peculiar appearance, as Preasia now had a very dense coat of platinum blond fur covering her body, they quickly opened up to her after she gave them counseling. As a result, Preasia’s own fame had been steadily increasing and she was even called a Saintess by those that had received her care and guidance…

Once Fafnir had returned to his side, Vahn had continued deeper into Knossos and wondered what other discoveries he would make by the time he reached the end. Thus far, he had only gone down around three levels and he knew that the complex maze-like structure would extend all the way to the Middle Floors of the Dungeon. As he went deeper and deeper, Vahn had no doubt ‘something’ would happen to bar his passage…

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